Labor Rights

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Elizabeth Brandeis Raushenbush

Following in the footsteps of her famous father, Elizabeth Brandeis Raushenbush became an expert on labor legislation in the United States and one of its strongest defenders.

Justine Wise Polier

Justine Wise Polier espoused an activist concept of the law and a rehabilitative rather than a punitive model of judicial process, she pioneered the establishment of mental health, educational, and other rehabilitative services for troubled children. She also took a leading role in opposing racial and religious discrimination in public and private facilities.

Pioneer Women in the United States

Pioneer Women, the Labor Zionist women’s organization in the United States—today called Na’amat—was officially founded in 1925. The new group sought to elevate the public profile of the halutzot (Zionist women pioneers) in the Yishuv (Palestine Jewish settlement community) and to help the pioneer women’s cooperatives in Palestine through American-based philanthropic efforts.

Rose Pesotta

Known primarily as one of the first female vice presidents of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Pesotta saw her union organizing as an opportunity to fulfill the anarchist mandate “to be among the people and teach them our ideal in practice.”

Pauline Newman

Pauline Newman was a labor pioneer and a die-hard union loyalist once described by a colleague as “capable of smoking a cigar with the best of them.” The first woman ever appointed general organizer by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Newman continued to work for the ILGWU for more than seventy years—first as an organizer, then as a labor journalist, a health educator, and a liaison between the union and government officials.

National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

In 1913, the women of Reform Judaism, who were organized in independent, local synagogue sisterhoods founded in the 1890s and 1900s, united to create a national organization of women dedicated to religion. Reform Jewish women joined the American women of the era who established a host of voluntary associations to further various social and communal agendas.

Histadrut

In 1920, with the beginning of the Mandate for Palestine given to Great Britain by the League of Nations in April 1920 to administer Palestine and establish a national home for the Jewish people. It was terminated with the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.British mandate following World War I, a new workers’ organization, Histadrut ha-Ovdim ha-Clalit (the General Federation of Workers), was formed by the Jewish workers who immigrated to Mandatory Palestine. The Histadrut comprised men and women workers, both wage-earners and homemaker wives of Histadrut members. The Histadrut did not restrict its spectrum of activity, nor did it limit its scope of membership. Indeed, its charter declared that every working man and woman over the age of eighteen who lived by his or her own earnings and concurred with the policies of the Histadrut was eligible for membership.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bas Sheva Abramowitz (“Bessie” was created by an Ellis Island immigration officer) was born on May 15, 1889, in Linoveh, a village near Grodno in Russia. She was one of ten children born to Emanuel Abramowitz, a commission agent, and Sarah Rabinowitz. In 1905, Bessie, who spoke only Yiddish and some Russian, joined an older cousin in immigrating to America. Most 1905 immigrants fled czarist oppression and anti-Jewish violence, but Bessie reported that her aim in leaving home was to escape the services of the local marriage broker.

Lillian Herstein

The history of Jewish women in the American labor movement tends to focus on those whose careers unfolded in the needle trades. Such was not the case with Lillian Herstein, who was a teacher and a nationally known labor leader. Ethel Lillian Herstein, the youngest of six children, was born on April 12, 1886, in Chicago. Her parents, Wolf and Cipe Belle, emigrated from Vilkovishk, Lithuania, shortly after the U.S. Civil War, not only for economic reasons but because of Wolf’s admiration for Abraham Lincoln and his ideals.

Helen Rosen Woodward

Helen Rosen Woodward is best known for her contribution to the world of advertising and is generally believed to be the first female account executive in the United States.

Rose Wortis

Rose Wortis was an active union organizer and member of the Communist Party in the first half of the 20th century. She was an elected official of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the Trade Union Unity League, and the New York District Communist Party.

Working Women's Education in the United States

This article discusses the many types of education Jewish working women received, focusing on the 1910s through the 1930s, the height of the workers’ education movement in the United States.

Theresa Wolfson

Theresa Wolfson, economist and educator, taught at Brooklyn College from 1929 until her retirement in 1967. A prolific writer, she published in the fields of labor economics and industrial relations. As early as 1916, Wolfson studied barriers to the advancement of women in the workplace and the unequal treatment of women within trade unions.

Pearl Willen

Pearl Willen was a social and human welfare activist and communal leader with a love for Jewish heritage. She had a lifelong record of service for such causes as civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of workers.

Barbara Mayer Wertheimer

Barbara Mayer Wertheimer gave a voice to the voiceless, empowering thousands of women union workers through her initiatives in the late 20th century. Wertheimer established the trade union women’s studies program in 1972 and developed several other academic programs, giving working women access to education and the ability to interact and organize with other union workers.

Gertrude Weil

Gertrude Weil’s life is a rare example of southern Jewish social activism during the first half of the twentieth century. She was the first Jewish woman to lead a statewide secular women's movement in North Carolina, beginning her activist career in 1915 fighting for woman suffrage and continuing through to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Anna Strunsky Walling

Anna Strunsky Walling was a Russian-born author, journalist, lecturer, and social activist. She produced several novels and memoirs and was involved in a number of political organizations, including the Socialist Labor Party and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which she and her husband helped found.

Roosje Vos

Today Roosje Vos is known as a socialist organizer and it is generally assumed that her socialism represented a break from her Judaism. One could well argue, however, that her life followed a pattern similar to that of many radical Jewish women in many parts of the world. From this perspective, her socialist radicalism forms part of a secular Jewish tradition.

Sara Szweber

Sara Szweber personified the symbiotic combination of political activism and professional engagement that was so very important for the Bund. Her early practical experience as the head of a cooperatively organized dressmaking workshop predestined her for her later work as a union leader. This gave her an almost unique status among the women of the legally operating party of the interwar period.

Sociodemography

In the course of the second half of the twentieth century momentous changes in the status of women in the more developed societies also deeply impacted on Jewish women worldwide.This review deals with the presence and role of women in critical processes affecting world Jewish population between the 1950s and 2000 in the context of broader trends.

Helene Simon

A groundbreaking pioneer in the theory and practice of social policy and social welfare in Germany, Helene Simon derived her philosophy and ideology from two seemingly disparate sources: her strictly Orthodox Jewish parental home and the leaders of the Fabian Society in London, especially Beatrice and Sidney Webb.

Mania Wilbushewitch Shochat

Mania Wilbushewitch ran away from home at the age of fifteen to become an industrial worker in the carpentry workshop of her brother Gedaliah (1865–1943) in Minsk. Before long she found herself coordinating a massive strike of the workers against her brother, in protest at the extremely long work day he had imposed upon them. This episode marked the beginning of what was to become her decades-long devotion to ameliorating the working conditions of industrial and agricultural laborers.

Dominique Schnapper

Dominique Schnapper’s specialties cover numerous fields: her works, which may be categorized as historical sociology, deal with the study of minorities, unemployment and labor and, above all since the early 1990s, the nation and citizenship, all of which have been accompanied by constant epistemological inquiry.

Frances Raday

The career of Frances Raday as a leading human rights and feminist academic and also as an influential human rights advocate and litigator has evolved on no less than three different continents: starting in England, passing through Africa and finally settling in Israel.

Hortense Powdermaker

Hortense Powdermaker explored the balance of involvement and detachment necessary for participant-observer fieldwork in cultural anthropology, stressing the ability to “step in and out of society.” Her secular Jewish identity was apparently a factor in learning this skill, exemplified in an academic career that included thirty years of college teaching and the writing of five major books based on widely diverse fieldwork studies.

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